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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Panther Creek Mountain: The Big Adventure is an action and adventure book for preteens written and illustrated by Clyde McCulley. While Clay, Luke and Sally Jane are fictional characters, some of the stories included are biographical in nature, and were adapted from the author’s memoir of his childhood in the Appalachian Mountains during the 1950s. It was the last day of school at Wild Cat Valley Elementary, and brothers Clay and Luke could barely restrain their excitement at the prospect of the endless days of summer stretching out before them. The brothers were close enough in age, 11 and 9 years old, for them to be best friends and comrades, as well as brothers. When the school bus finally delivered them to Panther Creek Road, summer had officially began, which they commemorated by taking off their shoes and going barefoot. Over the next few months, they’d hardly ever wear shoes, preferring to feel the sand and grass under their feet. While they liked school well enough, they both felt that their real opportunities for growth were to be found in the outdoors. Mom was ready when they came home and fixed them snacks of milk and cookies, which the two brother ate as they compiled lists of Summer Adventures, Money Making Ideas and Summer Chores. Summer yawned wide and free before them.
Clyde McCulley’s action and adventure book for preteens, Panther Creek Mountain: The Big Adventure, is a marvelous homage to a simpler, yet infinitely richer time when kids could have real adventures without the intrusion of cellphones and the allure of video gaming. The author deftly introduces an entirely different culture to today’s preteens -- one where outhouses still exist and weekly baths are taken in galvanized tubs -- but I bet there are any number of young readers who, after reading this book, would be more than willing to forgo the modern conveniences to be able to spend a summer in the company of Clay, Luke and Sally Jane. I was taken by the practicality and mature attitude I found in McCulley’s young heroes, who knew quite well how to cope with natural perils such as mountain lions, rattlers and mama razorback pigs as they live out their summer days blissfully free of adult supervision. I loved following as they built a treehouse, discovered a cave and explored their river on a handmade raft. McCulley’s pen and ink illustrations are outstanding and served quite well to enhance my mental image of the mountain these three preteens called home. Panther Creek Mountain: The Big Adventure is most highly recommended.